Imus In The Mourning

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

So Cheryl says to me that Imus has a constitutional right to say whatever he wants.

She’s right; of course he does.  The First Amendment says that the government cannot impinge on your freedom of speech.

However, freedom of speech does not mean you are free from the consequences of your speech.  If your 8 year old son or daughter decides to call you a "fucking whore", that kid is going to face the music for that, and nothing in the Constitution protects him or her.  Why not?  Because you’re not the government; you’re the kid’s parent.

Now, if the FCC came down on Imus’s ass, then it would be a First Amendment issue.  And — much as I have a strong distaste for Imus — I would probably have risen to his defense.  But the repercussions here didn’t come from the government, so the Constitutional right is irrelevant here.

Zurich_hNews pioneer Fred Friendly said it best:  "There’s a difference between what you have a right to do, and the right thing to do."  Imus had a right to call the accomplished women college basketball players, like the one pictured on the right, "nappy-headed hos", but it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Yes, Imus has the right to be an ignorant bigot.  By the same token, advertisers on his radio show, not wanting to be associated with his ugliness, had the right to withdraw their sponsorship of Imus.  And MSNBC and CBS had the right to take him off the air.  After all, it’s their camers, it’s their microphone, and they can put anybody they want in front of them.

I also have little tolerance from Imus’ defenders who say, "it was a joke that went too far".  A joke?  What, exactly, about that was supposed to be funny?  Read the transcript.  It wasn’t a joke that fell flat; it wasn’t a joke at all!  It wasn’t the punchline to a joke — nor it was it a set-up to a punchline.  He just flat-out called them a racial epithet.

When Imus used the phrase, he was not intending to be funny; he was intending only to be mean and insulting.  And he succeeded.

So, he exercised his right to free speech.  And so — now — have his employers, his advertisers and the public.  And they spoke clearly: "Enough is enough".  Actions have consequences, Imus.  Welcome to the real world.